The international workers' day, today, is being unofficially celebrated in Afghanistan. As for the millions of workers around the world, this day has a special message for Afghan workers too – fight for your right. But awareness is low as majority of the poor Afghan workers do not have even a little know-how about their day. Poverty has grabbed them in such a way that they have no time to raise their voice on this specified day against the deprivations they face.
At least over the last ten years – a period considered golden for Afghanistan as it received billions of dollars in aid from international community – the workers have availed no benefit while poverty has extended further to sophisticate living. The Afghan government has turned a blind eye over the workers' plight causing their hopes to die. The troubles the Afghan workers are facing are grave and multiple. Poverty serves as their biggest problem.
A staggering 70 percent of Afghans survive on less than two dollars per day. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries of the world where according to estimates more than 10 million people suffer from absolute poverty. The condition is so despite the injection of billions of dollars of international aid into the economy of Afghanistan since the fall of Taliban in 2001.
Corruption is perceived an important factor that has contributed to poverty. The benefits of huge amounts of international aid have not reached to common Afghans as those with more political power have concentrated on gaining much profit from the prevailing chaotic situation in which the government is so weak that it cannot say a word against the worsening problem of corruption.
Embezzlements, lack of transparency and accountability and failure of international community to oversight how its funds are spent in Afghanistan can be deemed major reasons for why the common Afghans have benefited the least.
Afghanistan's Bamiyan province is an example of the dire condition that the people are facing due to poverty. Close to the Bamiyan statues, there are thousands of caves explaining the markets of the people of thousands of years back. But today these caves provide shelter to around 300 families. These families live in absolute poverty having no clean water, electricity or health clinics. As said there are ten million people in Afghanistan who live below the line of poverty. A noteworthy number of that figure should be the people from Bamiyan.
That is due to government's lack of attention in creating employment opportunities for Afghans. Lack of employment on the one hand has caused social crimes to soar. On the other hand it has compelled Afghans to migrate to neighboring and other countries of the world in search of livelihood.
The later step, for which bad security is another major reason, is so risky that Afghans frequently lose their lives. Reports indicate that Afghans form a major portion of people who have applied for asylum in Australia, European and other countries of the world. Today, thousands of Afghans fulfill demand for workers in Pakistan and Iran at very low costs. Regretfully, the Afghan government has failed to make uses of its human resource.
The war-torn and landlocked Afghanistan is largely dependent on international community's assistance to recover from over three decades of war and civil strife. Driving factors towards increasing instability, according to Afghans, is high rate of unemployment and poverty in the war-wrecked country.
Many of those fighters joining Taliban insurgents are illiterate tribal people, young seminarians and low educated jobless youths. For many of Afghanistan's youth, the only way out of poverty is through the Taliban or in the poppy and opium trade in the country's southern region. "Poverty actually kills more Afghans than those who die as a direct result of the armed conflict," Norah Niland, the UNHCR representative in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul, the U.N. News reported on its Web site on 30 March, 2010.
The word worker does not apply merely to adults as the number of child laborers is also quite high in this country. In Afghanistan around 21 percent of child workers are employed in shops; 13 percent work as street vendors. Others work in vehicle repair, metal workshops, tailoring and farming.
In Kabul and many other major cities of Afghanistan, there are street children who shine shoes, beg, clean cars and collect and sell scrap metal, paper and firewood. Children can also be seen in garbage areas searching for things which can be sold for cash or finding something to eat and kill their hunger.
These children not only eat health-hazard foods but also drink polluted water and breathe in the polluted air. Majority of laboring children are mostly seen in dirty cloths working seven days a week and more than 12 hours a day. Most of children have to work because of either not having parents or their parents are unable to earn livelihood for their families.
As the international forces are set to withdraw by 2014, lawlessness is to escalate further. That will result in the living condition of poor people to deteriorate even more. The post-2014 Afghanistan will experience decreased amount of foreign aids that will negatively impact the little economic gain it has had in the last decade.
More people will go unemployed. A preventive measure is required to be taken. The aids Afghanistan will receive in the coming years should be spent by pressuring the Afghan government to provide more transparency and accountability. It has to be made sure that funds coming for the people of Afghanistan are spent on improving their living standard and supporting them stand on their own feet.